The Freedom of Association

 The Social Credit discussion tends to be dominated by the technical economic considerations. In the back and forth about how the direction of the system can be changed to deliver sufficient purchasing power to individuals the philosophical underpinnings of Social Credit, why the system ought to be changed, can be eclipsed.

 This is probably true of the current system as well. Leadership are so concerned with keeping us doing that the question of why we are doing it, what we are eventually trying to achieve, is seldom raised. A likely reason for this is that the whys of present social, political and economic organisation are unpalatable when treated to philosophical reduction.

The social objective of the economic proposals forwarded by Douglas is to grant to each individual the freedom of association. That is the power for the individual to choose what they will or will not support with their time and energy. It is true we are free to quit our jobs if we don’t like what we do, but the penalty of doing so for most of us is financial ruin or having to take up something similar from what we were doing in the first place.

At the moment the majority of us are coerced by the economic system into supporting activities for an income, with a distant and secondary consideration given to the quality of contribution that we make in our jobs. Jumping through hoops is fast becoming the national pre-occupation. Additionally, much of the necessary work that contributes so significantly to human well-being – the raising of families, strengthening of communities, self-education, physical and mental nourishment, care for the tired and sick – is being edged out by expanding work commitments in a vicious cycle of social deterioration.

Platitudes about duty and social contribution aside, we must acknowledge that people submit to economic associations for their own benefit. The actual activity performed is, so far as individuals are concerned, a less important factor. Because the money given for work is more important to the individual than the job done, it is inevitable that people will persist with a bad job for the sake of the monetary reward. In this way commercial activity is able to, and I think increasingly does, bypass ethical concerns effective in other areas of people’s lives.

It is a very dangerous system that places large numbers of individuals in positions whereby their immediate needs can only be satisfied by periodic payment as long as they unquestioningly do as they are told by increasingly distant and indifferent authority.

We need to realise that the tension that exists here is the tension between the individual and the group. It is certain there is a great deal of advantage to be gained by associating in groups. For instance, the modern productive system is a cooperative affair that enables people in association to get for themselves bed and board in a fraction of the time and energy it would take to secure these things on their own. But, so far as the individual is concerned, the advantages of associating in groups for economic purposes are reduced to nothing if the conditions of work, or the time it demands, does not endow greater freedoms personally. 

The continual elevation of the group ideal and the minimising of individuality1 has led to us losing sight of this trade off. ‘The appeal is away from the conscious-reasoning individual, to the unconscious herd instinct.’  Douglas hones in on the practical result of this in his chapter on ‘The Relation of the Group to the Individual’ when he writes:

The shifting of emphasis from the individual to the group, which is involved in collectivism, logically involves the shifting of responsibility for action. For instance, the individual killing of one man by another we term murder. But collective and wholesale killing, we dignify by the name of war, and we specifically absolve the individual from the consequences of any acts which are committed under the orders of a superior officer.1

But if we keep in mind that we live in a world that does not necessarily conform to the intentions good or otherwise of superior officers, captains of industries, people with law degrees or people with money but ‘that over every place of action with which we are acquainted, action and reaction are equal, opposite, and wholly automatic’ then we will see the danger of such an approach to human organisation because, to return to Douglas’ example of war, while ‘there may be, ex-hypothesi, no moral guilt attributable to the individual who goes to war; but the effect of intercepting the line of flight of a high-speed bullet will be found to be exactly the same whether it is fired by a national or a private opponent.’1

The effect of absorption by the individual into the led group and the consequent suspension of reason and responsibility occurs at every level. I was once told by the head of department of the health and physical education faculty at the school where I worked that he would do his job standing on his head if he was told to. The implication being that the following of orders would, by a very long distance, take priority over the efficient performing of his duties. Needless to say he would not have considered carrying out his own business inverted.

The capitalist system makes money the prime consideration of human organisation. The prioritising of this extraneous and completely artificial factor amounts to negligence of the causal nature of the universe and represents the gravest threat to civilisation and the planet. We must recalibrate the financial mechanism so that it allows for the formation of society on the only appropriate basis that exists – the satisfaction of the individual.

The practical remedies of Social Credit consisting of the National Dividend and the Compensated Price would not only take the friction out of the economic machine, it would provide people with the power to exercise their judgement about what projects are worthy of their support. All sorts of activity that persist because they provide employment would suddenly be required to justify themselves on more than just financial grounds. Surely it would be an advance in our social evolution if the financial mechanism could be made to support the individual in bringing their standards of common decency and sense into the economic sphere. The present state of affairs that sees the money our society requires to carry out its business inadequately dispensed for the purpose of providing a tiny minority with extravagant incomes is ludicrously illogical and imbalanced. The democratic cause would be better advanced by democratising the money system in our own backyard than by dropping bombs on distant tyrants.

The fundamental objection to slavery was it deprived slaves of control over their lives. For most people the financial order achieves a similar objective but softens the edges with the illusion of choice. Conversely, the democratic idea asserts that free choice should be an operative force in shaping society. Douglas defined liberty as the ‘freedom to choose or refuse one thing at a time.’ If we accept this definition we cannot say we enjoy liberty while we are forced to surrender our choice to avoid economic ruin. The freedom to choose our associations without fear is the why of the economic proposals of Social Credit.

 Reference 

  1. Douglas, C.H. 1933. Social Credit, 3rd Edition, Eyre and Spottiswoode, London

 

 

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